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Title: Accountability in environmental assessment law, policy and practice : changing paradigms, changing purposes in the European Union, 1985-2010
Author: Sheate, William Robert
ISNI:       0000 0004 2717 211X
Awarding Body: Staffordshire University
Current Institution: Staffordshire University
Date of Award: 2011
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Twenty five years since the introduction of the European Union (EU) environmental impact assessment (EIA) Directive in 1985 this thesis reflects on how environmental assessment (EA) legislation in the EU has evolved, how it has responded to changing policy contexts (paradigms) and whether the experience of implementing EIA and strategic environmental assessment (SEA) in the EU provides useful insights into the nature and role of environmental assessment (EA) instruments. Paralleling this development of EU legislation has been the continuing and slowly maturing debates around EA theory. Surprisingly ‐ in the context of legal mandates for EA ‐ there is little reference in the EA literature explicitly to the literature on accountability and the role EA may play in this increasingly important aspect of governance. This thesis examines how the legislation has changed over the 25 year period in response to the changing policy context, and – through drawing on empirical action and policy‐oriented research reported in the selected papers – seeks to answer the core research question “To what extent have EA processes, over the course of their evolution in the EU, provided a platform for enhancing accountability and sustainability?”. The thesis examines EA implementation principally from an environmentalist perspective and particularly the way in which NGOs and other advocates for the environment in the UK and EU have used the EA legislation as a lever for increasing democratic, corporate and professional accountability of proponents and decision‐makers alike. Accountability is implicit as a theme underlying the selected papers, but it is the collecting together and synthesis that provides a new lens through which to view EA. The thesis seeks to fill a significant policy and practice gap between the theoretical discussion in the EA community – the role and purpose of EA – and the practical and legal discussions around implementation. From this historical analysis it is clear that EA has had an important role to play – at the legislative level in providing the requirements for accountability, and at the implementation level as the lever that can be used to hold individuals, organisations and authorities to account for their actions. The relationship with the shift to sustainability is shown to be a close one, since sustainable development demands greater public involvement in decision‐making and greater accountability of executive decisions to the public. The lessons from the body of work presented here allow the development of a nascent policy‐oriented theory and research agenda regarding EA’s role in accountability, which provides a framework for a distinctive new area of EA research and policy analysis. Moreover, an accountability perspective on EA could help re‐frame EA for policy makers from being purely an informational and procedural instrument to one which promotes better accountability and sustainability simultaneously.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: L700 Human and Social Geography